By Thomas D'Agostino
In 1793, Samuel Slater became the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution in America. Before long, The Blackstone River and its tributaries were laced with mills of all forms of manufacture.
Villages sprouted out of nowhere and people flocked to work at the mills in hopes of a better life.
Children were often employed at these mills due to the fact that many adults felt that such work was beneath their stature or because child labor was cheap and children could fit between machines more easily to fix any problems that arose.
Early mills were very dangerous places to work and many employees either lost their lives or were permanently maimed by the merciless machines they were hired to run. The tragic accidents in these factories have left the interiors of these buildings scarred with the spirits of those who gave their hard labor, sweat, and, many times, blood to the place they would forever haunt. Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island is no exception. In fact, Slater Mill is one of the more haunted mills of the Blackstone Valley.
The Slater Mill Historical Complex consists of Slater Mill, Wilkinson Mill and the Sylvanus Brown House. All three buildings appear to be haunted. My wife Arlene and I had two opportunities to prove this claim and within one week, we were convinced that the site is home to several ghosts.
Carl and Keith Johnson run tours at the mill complex on a regular basis. They have witnessed many strange occurrences during their tenure at the site. On October 26 last year, Carl took us on a tour of the three buildings, telling us some stories of the haunting. The wheel pit of the Wilkinson Mill is home to a man who reportedly got caught in the wheel and died. In the mill itself, people have seen a dark figure moving about the far end of the main floor.
The Slater Mill building hosts the ghost of a boy and a man, perhaps Samuel Slater, founder of the mill. The weaving machine, on loan from Great Britain, is the focal point for the ghost of the boy who may have lost his life trying to dodge the carrier as it came by while he would have been repairing the thread on one of the spindles. A man has been seen on the stairs leading to the second floor.
The Sylvanus Brown House is home to a little girl the staff calls Becca. Becca has been heard giggling and speaking on many occasions. In fact, on our tour I wandered into Becca’s room while Carl was showing Arlene how the loom works. I recorded the whole tour and when I played that moment back, there was a voice that said “Hey, Get out of here.” Her face has also been witnessed looking out the top story windows, and in the basement kitchen a bench once slid almost two feet from where it rested, with two people sitting on it!
Three days later, on October 29, we had the opportunity to hold a public investigation at the mill. What we experienced proved that the Slater Mill complex is indeed haunted. During one of the vigils, Keith started the dangerous weaving machine to show the group how it works. After all was quiet I asked, “Did you make it out alright? You don’t look like you were hurt.”
A few moments later we all heard what sounded like a long painful moan coming from inside the room. I was lucky enough to capture it on my recorder. The energy of the buildings that evening was very strong and it appeared the ghosts were letting us know they were still on vigil.
While in the same room of the Slater Mill with Carl a few days before, we recorded a strange set of voices speaking around us. Carl was showing us how the children would have to run behind the great weaving machine to re-attach broken threads, and then hit the floor as the carrier rolled over them. They would then make sure the carrier was clear before jumping up and out of the way before it returned. When I played back my recording of the exhibit, instead of our three voices, there were five, another man and woman!
To hear the recordings, visit our Facebook page: The Yankee Xpress and Blackstone Valley Xpress. Scroll down to Posts and the photos of Slater Mill.